While a great deal is now known about ADD and ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, there are widespread misconceptions about the condition, what causes it and how to take care of these children. Here are 8 common mistaken beliefs and the truth about this condition:
Myth: Persons with ADHD are always hyperactive.
Fact: This is an attention disorder. It tends to be manifest in three subtypes, two of which include hyperactivity.
The three main features that mark these persons are inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. These three characteristics tend to be present in one of three subtypes. The predominantly hyperactive/impulsive subtype does not show particular inattentiveness. A person with the predominantly inattentive subtype does not show the hyperactive/impulsive behavior. This is what was formerly known as ADD. Finally, a person with the combined subtype shows all three characteristics of inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
Myth: ADHD is a behavior disorder.
Fact: These are medical disorders. Research has shown that they are disorders affecting neurotransmitters in those areas of the brain that bring together information from multiple sources and that process sensory information. While behavioral problems are often apparent in ADHD, misbehavior is a symptom, not the cause.
Myth: ADHD is caused by poor parenting or upbringing, not enough exercise, too much sugar or other unhealthy foods, too much TV or computer time, etc.
Fact: It is caused by a neurobiological condition in the brain. Scientists believe that certain genetic factors may be at the root, which explains why it tends to run in families. This is an important fact to know, since if a child's parents have this condition they need to learn to help themselves before they will be able to help their child.
Myth: People with ADHD cannot pay attention consistently to anything.
Fact: What is now known about ADD and ADHD is that these people have difficulty regulating their attention. They have a lower ability than average to process multiple "chunks" of information at a time, and therefore "tune out" and become distracted if they have to process too many individual pieces of information, such as a long list of instructions or an activity that requires a complex sequence, such as long division. However, when presented with stimulating activities within their abilities they are able to focus on them.
Myth: ADHD is a condition that mostly affects children. They will grow out of it.
Fact: It is a neurobiological condition that doesn't go away. However, properly treated, persons with this condition develop "coping mechanisms" and are able to function normally. Many people with this condition have above average intelligence which is able to be effective once they develop strategies to cope with it.
Myth: ADHD mostly affects boys.
Fact: It tends to be misdiagnosed in girls. By the time they are adults, it tends to affect about the same number of males as females.
Myth: ADHD can be treated with medication. Or, it cannot be treated with medication.
Fact: Medications have been found to provide short term assistance with concentration, controlling impulsiveness, and task planning and follow through. The medications used commonly for treatment relieve symptoms but in no way cure the condition. As soon as the medication is stopped, such as on the weekend when prescribed for school, the symptoms come back. There are serious potential side effects to the medications used for treatment and overuse can be fatal. In addition, Novartis, the manufacturer of Ritalin, a common drug used to treat this condition, states: "The effectiveness of Ritalin LA for long-term use, i.e., for more than 2 weeks, has not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials."
Myth: ADHD is found mostly in Western nations.
Fact: It is a global phenomenon, with the highest concentrations being in Southeast Asia and parts of Europe. It was first diagnosed in North America, which may be how this myth arose.